"Can do spirit' is our winner: Mudra's Madhukar Kamath

Madhukar Kamath, the Group CEO & MD of Mudra Group, is a staunch Mudraite. He has over three decades of experience in the business. Under his leadership, the Mudra Group has evolved into an integrated marketing communications group. The Mudra Group provides inventive branding solutions through its four agency networks ” Mudra India (Branding & Communication); DDB Mudra (Influence & Behavioural Change); Mudra Max (Integrated Engagement & Experience); and Ignite Mudra, India's only agency dedicated to the brand building needs of entrepreneurs.

In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Kamath talks about his experiences and vision for the prodigiously protean group.

Adgully: Tell us about your early years in advertising¦

Madhukar Kamath: I have been privileged to spend three decades in this business. I was fortunate to begin at a time when we were integrated full-service agency in the true sense. As an agency partner, the client would invite us for every single discussion, be it their identity, corporate campaign, brand campaigns, or launch events. Everything was done by one agency. So my entry into the business happened in the integrated era. I began my career in Calcutta¦there was a larger advertising market there and I was fortunate enough to work with some of the greats. I have seen them function at close quarters and have learned a lot from them.

AG: What have been the high points of your association with Mudra?

MK: I have been associated with Mudra over two different stints, spanning nearly two decades. Both the stints have been very different. I have grown personally and professionally in Mudra. Over the years, one of the first things that hit me when I joined Mudra in 1988 was the entrepreneurial spirit and the freedom that the operating heads had. For me, it was unlearning what I learnt in the first decade and learn what is possible the Mudra way. There was a line that was adopted by my predecessor and Mudra, it is a Walt Disney line, "If you can dream, you can do it'. That is what epitomized our growth. I strongly believed in it. One of the first highlights was doing Humko Binees Mangta hai campaign in Delhi that brought about Hinglish and set Mudra Delhi on its feet. We suddenly found ourselves among the top 5 at the end of the first decade. The second decade, the nineties, was glorious in Mudra because we became the agency of the year twice or thrice ” with fabulous campaigns going everywhere and had multinationals who came on board. We brought McDonalds and Samsung into the country. We did a lot of Nestle brands, worked with HP and HCL and had a series of clients all around the country. So my first stint was about the power of a team that grew and grew. My second stint was different because now I had to lead the agency. Earlier I was a senior team member. When leading the agency, you need to look at the people, which is why we set out to move from being an agency to a group.

AG: How has Murdra evolved under your leadership?

MK: One highlight would be the transformation from the agency into a group. Second, the evolution of the four agency structures; and the third, the aggressive growth we have registered.

AG: What sets Mudra apart from other agencies?

MK: I like to believe that it is our "can do' spirit. It is the entrepreneurial zeal we have and the inventive brand solutions we provide.

AG: What benefits and culture changes have partnerships brought into Mudra?

MK: The DDB and Mudra partnership is two decades old. And DDB is one of the best agencies in the world¦it is the most creative and most awarded agency at Cannes. It is an agency which talks of credibility with humanity. It is an agency which grew by being a collection of phenomenally wonderful brands right around the world. So from DDB we learned planning tools and ways to improve our creative products. and so on.

AG: What challenges do you see lurking around the corner?

MK: All I can say is that the first two decades of Mudra were about growth through innovations ” be it sponsorships, double spreads, sponsor programmes or tele-films. This decade, that is the third, has been about transformations because we believe that we need to be where every single customer touchpoint is. That is how we can grow specialist businesses at all those touchpoints.

AG: Can you tell us about some of your favorite clients?

MK: I am personally happy to be associated with the work on the launch of "Humko Binees mangta hain' and the work on Nestle business. I am also happy to have been associated with brands like HSBC, Reliance, Kwality Walls, and Dabur. I am also gratified to have launched mobile telephone in India through Hutchison.

AG: What's your take on teams?

MK: One of the biggest challenges has always been to get the right team members, and the second challenge is to motivate them and steer them towards a common goal.

AG: Is there a thought that runs within the organization?

MK: Inventive brand solutions have been the core belief as far as the group is concerned. We are called in by clients when there is a problem and we have to give them solutions.

AG: When Mudra started out, there was a culture of independent agencies, now the reality is acquisitions and that is the way people move forward. So do you think there is a chance of any boutique outfit to flourish?

MK: Of course. Look at the business, ours is a wonderful business which allows large MNCs, Indian agencies, and indeed boutiques outfits to flourish at the same time. There are distinct roles that each one of the agencies will play and there is enough business going around.

AG: Is integration the way forward?

MK: Yes. But integration, not as a discipline but as a way of life. No solution can be single-media led or a single-person led. This is why we need several brains working together and several businesses coming together to provide solutions.

AG: Among your strategic business units, which do you think will be the star?

MK: All four of them, because each one has a distinct role. There is this trailblazing that Mudra has done in term of building iconic brands and that has been carried forward by Mudra India.

AG: What is Mudra's turnover?

MK: We say Mudra is Rs 2000 crore plus agency and we are looking at reaching a turnover of Rs 2500 crore by this year end. We have 1150 employees across India. | By Janees Antoo [janees(at)adgully.com]


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